Friday, September 12, 2014

Ruthie Foster Sees The Promise of a Brand New Day

Ruthie Foster is one of the most thrilling singers in American vernacular music today. A singer and songwriter with roots in gospel and classic R&B, she has also been embraced by roots and blues audiences for her stirring performances. For her most recent recording Promise of a Brand New Day (Blue Corn Music), she recruited Meshell Ndegeocello to produce it (as well as contribute bass). Ndegeocello observed that she “wanted this album to highlight Ruthie’s voice and also communicate her vibe, give a fuller picture of her artistry and ability. She really trusted me with the music and I think we've made something that complements and holds its own alongside the power of her voice.”

Ndegeocello played bass and enlisted her regular guitarist, Chris Bruce (Sheryl Crow), and keyboardist Jebin Bruni (Aimee Mann), plus drummer Ivan Edwards and backing vocalist Nayanna Holley. Foster did request two special guests: guitarist Doyle Bramhall II and singer Toshi Reagon. Promise of a Brand New Day includes seven songs written or co-written by Foster, most of them “songs with messages—because that’s important to what I do,” she explains. “Maybe that’s from growing up with people like Mavis [Staples] and a lot of strong women who have come before me, who are great singers but also have a message.” Furthermore the other songs themselves are also very strong in this same manner.

Singing the Blues is a strong R&B performance about finding a new home, writing a new song, and finding a rhythm to help her get through things as she keeps singing the blues which never gets old to her. Let Me Know, which features Doyle Bramhall II’s guitar, has a gospel-inflected vocal set against a steady rocking groove which contrasts with the country soul feel of My Kinda Lover. The Ghetto was originally recorded by The Staples Singers with its evocative lyrics that bring inner city life alive while the late Willie King’s Second Coming is a folk-blues protest song noting that they could kill Ruthie’s body but not kill her mind like they could kill John Brown but not his mind. With the simple acoustic guitar backing and spare organ accompaniment it is a powerful performance.

Other remarkable songs include a collaboration with Stax legend William Bell, It Might Not Be Right, about gay love where she notes that it might not be right for some folk, but it is all right for this girl. Other songs include the ballad Learning to Fly, with its memorable line “Everybody knows that a seed must die so a flower must grow” sung with the warmth and genuineness that marks Foster’s singing throughout. After the moving a cappella Brand New Day there is, Complicated Love, a bittersweet song of dealing with difficult times in a relationship.

It has been said that some singers could make reciting the phone book sound good. Ruthie Foster makes one want to recite it with her. Promise of a Brand New Day is simply the latest marvelous chapter in her body of recordings.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is her singing Brand New Day.

No comments: